How to Clean and Polish Riding Boots

Updated December 13, 2022
Two pairs of black and brown tall riding boots.

As one of the most important investments you make as a rider, it’s crucial to take good care of your riding boots. Here are some tips on how to best care for and maintain your show or schooling tall boots and paddock boots.

If maintained with consistent, quality care, most boots will last years of routine riding. As your boots age, pay close attention to how the leather, zippers, and soles wear. Cobblers can often resole tall boots and paddock boots, install new zippers, and even patch leather to prolong your precious boots’ life.

Cleaning Tall Boots and Paddock Boots

Tall boots are often made from very fine leather that is quite different from the leather used in your tack. Field boots especially tend to be designed from thin hides to allow for close contact between a rider’s leg and the horse. Most tack cleaning soaps and conditioners are too harsh for this fine leather and can damage the boot or strip its color.

Riding Boot Cleaning Tips:

  • After your ride, use a damp sponge, cloth, or shoe brush to wipe away dust and debris on the boots.
  • Pay extra attention to cleaning any wrinkles in the leather and areas of the boot that rest against your horse’s coat.
  • Occasionally apply a quality leather conditioner to keep your boots supple and looking their best over time.
  • Use any boot conditioner sparingly to prevent the leather from stretching too much, which could result in the boots losing their tailored shape.
  • Remember that a little boot polish goes a long way, so use it sparingly! Rub polish of the same color as your boots into the leather using a sponge or cloth in circular motions to achieve a glossy look.
  • After polishing, buff out the boot using a cloth or boot brush occasionally and before a competition to get your boots shiny and show ring ready.

Watch this short review video on one of the most popular boot polishes, the Effax Boot Polish and Effax Speedy Leather Shine, where SmartPaker Melissa shows you how to polish your boots.

Smart Storage for Tall Boots

Consistently storing your tall boots with boot trees will help maintain their shape and prevent excessive wrinkles in the leather to prolong their life. Keeping your boots upright can help protect the zippers’ integrity and eliminate folds that could weaken or damage the leather. Dressage boots can also be hung upside down on a wall-mounted boot rack to better maintain their height and shape.

You can periodically use a zipper spray (like Pharmaka Zipper Saver Spray) to keep zippers clean; this can reduce the chances of zipper damage, which can be costly to repair or replace.

When traveling for shows or training, a quality boot bag with a soft interior lining will protect your boots from dents, dings, and scratches. Some bags are designed to store both boots, while other have individual storage compartments attached with a strap that you can simply throw over your shoulder for convenience when you’re on the go.

The information provided in the Horsemanship Library is based solely on our SmartPak authors' opinions. SmartPak strongly encourages you to consult your veterinarian or equine professionals regarding specific questions about your horse's health, care, or training. This information is not intended to diagnose, treat or cure any disease or behavior and is purely educational.